The Trinity–Part One

Posted: October 7, 2008 in Uncategorized

Dr. Grudem defines the doctrine of the Trinity as follows: “God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” 

As Professor Grudem notes, the word trinity is not found anywhere in the Bible but it is there even in the Old Testament.  For example, see Genesis 1:26 where God refers to Himself as “us.” Liberal scholars have tried to argue that passages like these are simply uses of the “royal we” that a king in the ancient near east would often use but the problem with this assertion is that no king refers to himself in this manner anywhere in Scripture.  Moreover, as Mark Driscoll recently noted in a sermon, there are ancient Jewish commentaries (or targums) that argue for a trinitarian concept.  However, it is true that a more complete revelation of the trinity is found in the New Testament as when all three persons are revealed at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16-17).

Dr. Grudem goes on to state, “In one sense the doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery that we will never be able to understand fully.  However, we can understand something of its truth by summarizing the teaching of Scripture in three statements:

1. God is three persons

2. Each person is fully God

3. There is one God.

The fact that God is three persons means that the Father is not the Son, they are distinct persons.  It also means that the Father is not the Holy Spirit, but they are distinct persons.  And it means that the Son is not the Holy Spirit.”  You can see these distinctions in passages like John 1:1-2; 14:26; etc.

Each member of the Trinity is God.  No one disputes that the Father is God but many have questioned the divinity of the son and spirit.  Yet, Scripture (which as we saw earlier are the very words of God so that to disbelieve or to disobey Scripture is to disbelieve or to disobey God) affirms that the son and spirit are God as well.  For example, as noted earlier, the first chapter of the Gospel of John clearly affirms the divinity of Christ (see also the confession of Thomas in John 20:28 and even Old Testament passages like Isaiah 9:6).

The Holy Spirit is also God.  This is why Jesus commands His disciples to baptize in the name of th Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Also, see passages like Acts 5:3-4 where Peter ask Ananias why he lied to the Spirit and then quickly reminds him that this is not lying to men but to God!   

Moreover, because all three are God they are necessarily eternal for, as we saw earlier, an attribute of God clearly affirmed by Scripture is that God is eternal and all three members of the Trinity are God. 

How are we to understand all of this? How can God be 3 and 1? Muslims have long accused Christians of failing to understand basic math.  I mean 1+1+1 doesn’t equal 1!  Yet, this is what Scripture affirms.  Millard Erickson’s analogy found in his book “Making Sense of the Trinity” is the one that has been the most help to me in getting my mind wrapped around the Trinity. Erickson’s compares the trinity to conjoined twins–distinct persons that still share the same body or essence. Now, as Grudem cautions, all analogies have short comings but that is the best I can do when it comes to thinking about the Trinity.

More on the Trinity tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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